TL;DR: This post discusses my continued exploration of a to-do system. This post documents my thoughts about the use of Trello as Kanban as detailed by Doug Belshaw. This post is also being submitted for a badge. 🙂
I spend a lot of time trying to figure out better ways to work. I read all about lifehacking to find opportunities to work smarter. One key component that I have yet to conquer is the to-do list.
My perfect solution for the to-do list is something that is minimal, works well on mobile, and connects to the other apps that I currently use. For the most part, my to-do list is my gMail mailbox. I try to achieve inbox zero, and when there is nothing in my inbox…I have nothing to do. 🙂 Lately I’ve moved away from my use of labels and folders in gMail and started using Inbox by Google. It offers me the ability to archive emails until I get to work…or home…or forward to a future date. This system works…but it’s obvious that I still need a basic mechanism to track what I need to do.
Why do I need a to-do list?
In my earlier system of keeping a gMail inbox as my to-do list, the challenge is that I’m anxious when there is something left behind in my inbox. I need to block off time in the week to sit and clear everything out. Even then…more emails and queries keep pouring in. I need a place to save everything and document the importance of each task.
I also want a place to document things I want to research later. As I’ve detailed in the past, I use Evernote to store everything. Evernote acts as my multimodal brain…and once I process and save a note, I can forget it for later. Despite the joys of forgetting something for later…there are certain things, I don’t want to forget. For example…I want to research SumoMe and add it to this blog. I also want to leave a tickler folder of ideas and people I need/want to speak to at a later date.
Finally, I want to use the to-do list as a way to keep track of course and grading responsibilities for my students. I build and run my own LMS and CMS for my classes. Keeping their emails, files, and Google Docs links can be a hassle when the papers come rolling in. I want a place that will save all of this work until I’m ready to process everything.
Kanban and Trello as to-do list
In an earlier blog post, Doug Belshaw shared out his current workflow. I really appreciate it when people document their thinking online as they create, break, and iterate on their use of digital texts and tools. Doug built up a system of using Trello in a personal Kanban method for getting things done. Trello is a collaboration tool that organizes your projects into boards. Kanban is a method for managing your work process into a flow to ensure (hopefully) that you’ll complete things just in time.
Doug has since revised his earlier post on the use of Trello in developing a Kanban system. What I like about this system is that the lists indicate what needs to be done today, and leaves room for things in the near future. I also like the ability to list out items I’d like to research soon…and what pieces have stalled. Finally, Trello works nicely on Chrome, mobile, and elsewhere.
I should note that I use this system for my own workflow to allow for automatic syncing across devices and places. I also love the fact that I can email notes from gMail to the Trello board. This makes it easy to add students emails that I can address at a later date to the Trello board. Finally, I have started investigating the use of the Trello board to organize other initiatives I help oversee that involve groups of people. The nice thing is that it eliminates the flood of emails as we all check in on responsibilities.
My Trello board
You can take a peek at my public Trello board by clicking here. I can view and modify my board from my laptop, or check in from my mobile. I set up individual lists for To Do Today, Doing This Week, Research, Bloggable, Tickler, and Grading. Research includes things that I want to take some downtime and investigate over the coming weeks. Bloggable includes topics I want/need to write and post in the coming weeks. The Tickler list is a place to save things for later. It’s basically Doug’s idea of the stalled list….but with less proactive name. Finally, the Grading list I slide over to the left and fill up when student work comes in. When everything is graded….it slides back to the right.
Things left unsaid
As I post this I need to indicate that I don’t think this system is perfect. It may also not be the best for me. In the time period between Doug’s two posts…I’ve switched over and back from Google Keep. I don’t want my to-do list to be a stockpile of things that I don’t do. I’m also trying to identify ways to focus the work that I complete on a daily basis. I’m busy…but at times I get to the end of the day and don’t know what I did. I would like to develop a system in which I identify at the beginning of each day (or the prior day) the work I want to complete. When I check it off…I’m done for the day.
Much of this thinking is motivated by the Tim Ferriss podcast, and was recommended by Doug. A recent episode included comedian Whitney Cummings. One of the key components that spoke to me from the podcast was on economy. This included economy of words in a joke, economy of action in work, economy of energy in focus. I want to utilize my to-d0 list to identify what I have to do in a day and accomplish it so I can continue to focus on what I want to do. This means that I can budget in time for research, other writing interests, family, play, etc. I’m trying to find the intersection of productivity and balance.
I’ll still continue to play with this system and report back if I learn anything.
Cover photo by db Photography | Demi-Brooke http://flickr.com/photos/demibrooke/2994169884 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license
Also published on Medium.